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Keywords:

  • eating disorders;
  • alcohol abuse;
  • alcohol use disorder

Abstract

Objective

Although eating disorders and alcohol use disorder (AUD) are known to co-occur, the influence of one on the other has not been studied.

Method

In a prospective study, women diagnosed with either anorexia nervosa (AN; n = 136) or bulimia nervosa (BN; n = 110) were interviewed and assessed for Research Diagnostic Criteria (RDC) AUD every 6–12 months over 8.6 years.

Results

Over one fourth of the sample (n = 66 [27%]) reported a lifetime history of AUD. Ten percent of the study subjects (n = 24) developed AUD over the course of the study. AUD did not influence recovery from either eating disorder. Poor psychosocial functioning and history of substance use predicted prospective onset of an episode of AUD for both diagnostic groups. Unique predictors for AUD for women with AN were depression, overconcern with body image, and vomiting. Recovery from AUD was predicted by group therapy and hospitalization (women with AN) and individual therapy and exercise (women with BN).

Conclusion

The influence of eating disorders on AUD appears to be greater than the reverse. A substantial number of patients who initially present with an eating disorder develop alcohol problems over the course of time, suggesting that the risk is an ongoing one that should be monitored by clinicians. © 2005 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.